It doesn’t matter if you are a student or a professional, if you work in entrepreneurship, management, marketing or other fields, communication will always be the backbone of your success.
Being able to present yourself, to sell yourself, has become a fundamental capacity in nearly every field of work. Improving your public speaking skills also teaches you to listen actively and create messages that stick with people.
These skills are especially crucial for entrepreneurs, as the viability of their careers depends on their ability to pitch. To provide students and founders with tools and frameworks to pitch their best, the Jean-Baptiste Say Institute of ESCP Business School hosted a workshop with public speaking coach Bjørn de Wildt.
Where to start to improve your public speaking and pitch your best
Born in Norway, Bjørn de Wildt has been working with theatre methods to speak in public since 2009. Starting his career in social-cultural development, he first came in contact with theatre techniques while doing social work and decided to pursue the topic further with studies in theatre.
When he began his job as a drama teacher in universities in the Netherlands, students asked for his help with presentations, which eventually led him to develop a programme to apply theatre techniques to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Not long after that, he met the startup world and the utility of public speaking skills for entrepreneurs. Via both in-person and online formats, Bjørn applies his 10+ years’ worth of knowledge and experience to help individuals improve their public speaking. Above all, he focuses on creating a safe environment for people to experiment and try things freely.
At the start of his workshop, Bjørn explains that the first question to ask yourself before preparing a speech or presentation is: “what do you want your audience to experience?”. He constantly reminds his students to question what they are saying and how they are saying it.
According to his experience, when presenting we need to forget about what we want to say and focus on why we want to deliver this message and how to say it, in order for the audience to receive it in the best possible way. This is the foundation of good public speaking.
A list of tips and tricks won’t turn you into a great public speaker, but these lessons may help
People must focus on “learning who [they] are as presenters, and making the best out of that”, says Bjørn. No need to watch a thousand TedTalks and try to perfectly imitate your favourite speaker: it’s not gonna work. “You are you”, he says, so you must “use what you have to deliver”.
Throughout his career, Bjørn has noticed how people hide behind preconstructed frameworks – truly progressing as a presenter is about showing and embracing oneself.
No matter the situation, however, Bjørn has a few lessons that can be applied:
- Active suggestions: instead of having people focus on what they want to avoid, he pushes them to concentrate on what they want to do, what they want to convey.
- Use all five senses to activate the listener and build suspense: a message is only going to go through when an emotional connection is built.
- Get unstuck: stress builds up in a still body, so it is fundamental to keep moving, preparing the body as if public speaking were a sport. This helps tremendously with managing stress and anxiety: the idea is to use the energy these feelings give you by redirecting it to what you are actually doing.
- Perceive your body as a tool, using hands, face and voice expressions. It is fundamental to avoid protecting our chest, wrists, palms and neck, as this hinders the confident transmission of the message.
And last, but not least, the elevator pitch
In his workbook, Bjørn provides six questions to build the perfect elevator pitch, which he kindly allowed us to share with you, our readers. To do the exercise correctly, you must answer each question with one sentence – by the end, you will have your 30-second elevator pitch. Here are the questions in order:
- What problem are you solving?
- How are you solving this problem?
- What is the business opportunity of this solution?
- Why should we trust you to solve this problem?
- How can we help you to develop this solution?
- How can we reach you?
While we hope these lessons will help you get a start on your public speaking journey, the most important step we cannot help with is: understanding yourself. Whether it is speaking with friends, colleagues or in front of an audience of investors, authenticity will help you feel confident and make others eager to listen.